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Pennsylvania court to rule within 90 days on FOM case
HARRISBURG, Pa. (1/7/08)--A federal judge in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania said Friday she will render a decision within 90 days on the banking industry’s challenge to the National Credit Union Administration’s (NCUA) field-of-membership decision involving three Pennsylvania credit unions. Several credit union entities, including the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), were in Harrisburg, Pa., for the federal court hearing. The arguments on the credit union side of the case were made by the U.S. Justice Department on behalf of NCUA, and by Paul Lambert, counsel from the Bingham McCutcheon law firm. Lambert is representing CUNA, the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA), the three affected credit unions and the National Association of Federal Credit Unions. Chief Judge Yvette Kane said there is the possibility that she may call for more briefs, Eric Richard, CUNA general counsel who attended the hearing, told News Now. The proceedings lasted about 90 minutes with the bankers, who are the plaintiffs, presenting their argument first, which is standard procedure, Richard said. Eric Womack, from the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Division, representing the NCUA, followed with his remarks. Finally, Lambert argued on behalf of CUNA, PCUA, the three credit unions, and the National Association of Federal Credit Unions. “Lambert argued that the U.S. Congress wants NCUA to grant community charters big enough for credit unions to be viable,” Richard said. “The bankers tried to challenge the validity of NCUA’s regulations on community charters. Our counsel said that, in a previous case in Washington D.C, the NCUA regulations were already upheld. So it was not appropriate to bring that issue up here.” A recent motion by banking plaintiffs seeks a summary judgment against the NCUA. Such a judgment would invalidate the agency's decision to grant community charters to the three Pennsylvania credit unions: Members 1st FCU, New Cumberland FCU, and Americhoice FCU (News Now Dec. 5). The first of the community charters was approved by the NCUA on April 24, 2003, Richard said. The bankers' case was filed in 2007 by the American Bankers Association and a group calling itself the Credit Union Task Force of Pennsylvania. The litigation challenges NCUA's determination that a six-county area in south central Pennsylvania constitutes a "well-defined local community" under the Federal Credit Union Act. A key issue to be decided in the case is whether the record shows sufficient interaction among people in the field-of-membership area to justify NCUA’s finding that there is a well-defined community in this area in Pennsylvania, Richard said. One other salient issue brought up was whether the court would disregard additional factual information that the bankers wanted to submit that is not in the NCUA record, Richard added, saying the bankers abandoned that argument.


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